Spanish painter born at Figueras ( Catalonia) March 11, 1904. From his early childhood he felt an intense need for making himself noticed, going so far as to throw himself down a flight of stairs in order to be admired by his comrades. At the age of ten he had already made two paintings: Joseph Greeting his Brothers and Portrait of Helen of Troy. His father was a notary, a native of the village of Cadaqués. It is the scenery of this village that is Dali's true spiritual home. After a stormy passage through the various schools in Figueras, during which he was given lessons by a drawing teacher named Núñez, Dali went to Madrid, where he entered the School of Fine Arts. With case and conviction -- for, despite his originality, he is methodical and conscientious -- he absorbed the academic recipes of the old historical painter Moreno Carbonero, who had been teaching there even in Picasso's time. But, above all, he fed himself on Freud and books on philosophy which, he claimed, were the only ones that could move him, even to tears. Through art reviews he became keenly interested in Cubism, Futurism and, particularly, Metaphysical Painting, which seemed to him the prime ideal. A close friendship bound him to Federico García Lorca, and they spent long hours comparing notes on their respective problems. Lorca drew and painted with an ethereal fantasy; Dali countered its suggestiveness with concrete plastic forms. In his respect for in exact realism, he resorted to trompe l'il and photography, the extraordinary possibilities of which he was to emphasize much later in suchfilms as Le Chien Andalou and L'Âge d'Or. The paintings which he showed at Dalmau's in Barcelona in 1925, and in Madrid in 1926, at the first exhibition of the Iberian Artist, alongside Ferrant, Palencia, Cossio and Borés, were already founded on strangeness and contrast. After a brief period of Cubist influence, in which he tried to reconcile the teachings of Gris, Chirico and Carrà with the best technique of the past, his own universe revealed itself in all its distinctiveness: distant views of seascapes, clear and luminous, seen through deep windows framed in black, with silhouettes of bending women in the foreground. But this poise, so inconsistent with his excitable nature, could not satisfy him. He made a trip to Paris by taxi in order to get acquainted with Picasso, Versailles, and the Grévin Museum (the French Madame Tussaud's). He made contact with Surrealism, painted Blood is Sweater than Honey, published (in Barcelona in 1928) the insulting Groc Manifesto, brought the members of the Parisian Surrealist group to Cadaqués, organized a triumphant exhibition at the Galerie Goemans, and married Gala, the wife of the poet Paul Eluard. A newcomer to the group, Dali was full of fight, fanaticism, and conviction. Using a rich philosophical terminology, he elaborated a new method of creation, which he defined as 'paranoiac-critical activity'. By intensifying the excitability of the mind, he wanted to create a lasting, frenzied pattern by the juxtaposition of chance objects. He knew very well how to use visionary experiences, interpretations of memory, and all the mental distortions that he came across in his systematic, conscious study of psychological derangement and pathological accidents. By absorbing oneself in the contemplation of something, he maintained, it is possible to enter another plane. The artist, placed before an external object, is led to describe the ascendancy that this object has over him. By painting it, he liberates -- at one and the same time --his subconscious from this hold, and the object from its conventional meaning (vide also Surrealism). Dali shows his desire to drain reality, and go beyond it, in one single operation. He may take as the basis of his work elements produced in the most mechanical fashion, such as a snapshot of an expressive face, or the reproduction of a very conventional painting, such as Millet Angelus. Then he lets the image deteriorate by a sort of decomposition, expressed by the softening or the elongation of its substance, or, simpler still, by painting in a few flies or some other real and visible sign of putrefaction. Thus the object is taken far from its original meaning towards a new representation. In his Surrealist work, however, Dali has remained faithful to his initial mythology, pushing to the extreme only the pathological and morbid distortions to which he subjects his materials. When he began to undergo the influence of the Italian Renaissance, in 19371938, and to prepare for the return to Classicism which has marked his recent work, he was on much less sure ground. He was disowned by his friends, and the Surrealist leader, the poet André Breton, denounced his technique as ultrareactionary and academic. However, he has had considerable success with a certain set in the United States, where he went to live in 1940. He has influenced both fashion and advertising.
He now gives his models so-called 'atomic' interpretation, and tackles religious themes. When he returned to Spain he found nourishment for his basic pictorial realism, and also the elements of a baroque tradition which seems better suited to his temperament than the austerity of a classicism drawn from Raphael. Dali the man is even more of an enigma than Dali the painter. Although he has been very lavish with his secrets in his writings ( The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, Fifty Secrets of the Art of Magic), in which the parts containing personal revelations are far move extensive than his essays with philosophical pretensions, Dali has assumed so many masks and poses, that it is hard to uncover his true personality. One can, nevertheless, discern elements of authenticity and continuity in his temperament. This applies particularly to the physical presence (which he never denied) of the landscapes of his childhood: the hills of Ampurdan, stretches of sand, and the shores of Cadaquis, bleached white by the sun. This landscape, which Dali, with unaffected pride, considers the most beautiful in the world, is in his subconscious mind. It is the common denominator of all his external adventures. In spite of the variety of themes that have been superimposed on it, nothing affects this persistence of memory. The survival of such aspects of his childhood helps to explain and, to a certain degree, gives a human quality to many of Dali's irritating caprices.